Cats in the Cradle: How to Properly Care for Your Kitten

The cat’s out of the bag! Here’s the lowdown on basic kitten care.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “no matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be kittens.” If you’re thinking about bringing one of these furry bundles of joy into your heart and home, here’s what you need to know.

Looking After Your Litter

Just like any other newborn, brand new kittens need plenty of tender loving kitten care. If you’re raising the litter yourself, remember that kittens need much more attention and energy than their adult counterparts. Newborns will need to nurse fairly regularly (usually every 1-2 hours), although after around 3 or 4 weeks they can be weaned onto milk replacers and store-bought kitten foods. In addition to constant feeding, they also need constant attention. In order to teach them how to play well with others, try to make sure your kittens are socializing for at least a few hours a day.

If you’re adopting a kitten, check that it’s already gotten all of the necessary vaccinations, particularly if you have any other pets in the house. You’ll also want to make sure you’re all set up with a litter box, scratching posts, and other kitten-friendly toys. Your furry friend (and your furniture) will thank you.

Bringing Up the Baby

Once a kitten is between 8 and 12 weeks old, it’s ready to leave its mother and be adopted by a loving family. If you are that loving family, be sure that you’re introducing them to a safe environment, specifically by checking and re-checking that all other pets are healthy and up-to-date on their vaccines.

These first few weeks will play an integral role in shaping your kitten’s future behavior, so be prepared to spend a lot of time socializing and being hands-on. New experiences can be scary, so integrate them into your home slowly. Introduce them to being picked up slowly, and establishing a feeding and care routine that’s convenient for you and comfortable for them.

Toddler Training

Between three and six months of age, your kitten will become a little more independent, but will still want and appreciate your attention and physical contact. At this age, kittens are particularly playful, and if they have no other pet playmates in the house, it’s your job to keep them stimulated and entertained. From complex cat toys to basic hairbands, there are few things kittens don’t enjoy playing with — use your imagination!

Around this time, they’ll also be ready for their second round of vaccinations. Make sure you have a vet you trust, and try to acclimate your kitten to their carrier pre-visit in order to prevent any undue stress.

Continued Care

By your sixth month of kitten parenthood, you’ll probably have your routine down pat — so congrats, successful cat parent! Be sure to continue to play, nurture, and love your kitten as they grow into a happy, healthy cat. If you have any concerns, be sure to get in touch with your vet. Otherwise, enjoy every last moment with your kitten — after all, as those of you with human children know, they always grow up too fast.

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